Scotland politics

Scottish Labour Party conference: Lamont lambasts SNP's pro-Yes campaign

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Media captionJohann Lamont says she wants Scotland to have the self confidence "to lead the UK, not leave the UK"

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has branded the SNP's independence drive "dishonest, deceptive and disgraceful".

She told her party's conference in Perth that First Minister Alex Salmond had failed to answer key questions on what would happen after a "Yes" vote.

The politician also pledged to deliver a "power house" Scottish Parliament, with new financial powers.

The speech comes ahead of the independence referendum in September.

Voters in Scotland will be asked the "Yes/No" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Seeking to compare the SNP to the Conservatives, Ms Lamont also told delegates that, despite seven years in power, the nationalists had failed to distribute wealth from rich to poor.

On the campaign to win a "Yes" vote, Ms Lamont said: "The nationalists are running the most dishonest, deceptive and disgraceful political campaign this country has ever seen.

"Their strategy is not to convince the people of Scotland - it is to drag them over the line to a place of no return outside the United Kingdom.

"Decent nationalists throughout this country must be hanging their heads in shame at the campaign that is being run."

Ms Lamont said the Scottish government could not answer basic questions on the currency of an independent Scotland, or how long it would take to join the EU, adding: "There is a new definition of the word scaremongering - asking Alex Salmond a question he cannot answer."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Johann Lamont delivered her speech to party delegates at their Perth conference
Image copyright PA
Image caption After her speech, Johann Lamont was joined on stage by her son and daughter

The party leader also attacked the government's policy, contained in its White Paper blueprint for independence, for a massive expansion in childcare.

She went on: "There is one thing which the first minister discovered this year - women give birth to children, then they look after them.

"So when his focus groups tell him women don't like him, he discovers childcare. It wasn't exactly the same as Fleming discovering penicillin.

"Splitting the atom it was not, but I suppose the first minister learning anything about how real Scots live their lives is some sort of progress."

Ms Lamont told delegates the SNP would "go down as conducting the worst campaign of miss-selling in history".

She added: "A White Paper about Scotland's future that mentions Strictly Come Dancing more often than it mentions the whisky industry isn't a document to be taken seriously.

"The nationalists ask for an alternative to the White Paper. We have one. It's called the truth."

'Osborne Max'

The Scottish Labour leader also attacked the SNP's record in office, telling the conference: "Seven years of nationalism in Scotland - and not one policy which distributes wealth from rich to poor - in fact the opposite.

"We have a nationalist government which refuses to reverse Tory tax cuts for millionaires - and a nationalist government which votes against giving workers on government contracts the living wage."

She told the conference: "Forget the talk of indy lite - this nationalist government is Osborne Max."

Ms Lamont also made the case for keeping the Union, telling the Labour faithful: "The nationalists say they want Scotland to have the self-confidence to leave the UK. I am more ambitious than that. I want Scotland to lead the UK."

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Image caption Johann Lamont paid an emotional tribute to husband Archie Graham

The leader's speech came after Scottish Labour unveiled its plan to strengthen the Scottish Parliament, including proposals to allow Holyrood to raise about 40% of its own revenues.

Scottish Labour's devolution commission also said the parliament should have the powers to increase the higher rates of income tax, giving it the ability to tax richer citizens more.

Pensions and most benefits would continue to be shared across the UK but Holyrood would gain control of housing benefit, allowing MSPs to scrap the under-occupancy penalty - branded the "bedroom tax" by critics.

"What we propose is a new, power-house parliament," said Ms Lamont.

She said a Labour Holyrood government would use the powers to raise income tax for those earning more than £150,000 from 45-50%, using the cash to invest in public services.

Ms Lamont told the conference: "I want a strong Scottish Parliament, at home to a Labour government.

"A strong Scottish Parliament, enabling our councillors to deliver for our communities and working in partnership with as many Labour MPs as we can deliver at Westminster so that Ed Miliband will be leading a Labour government delivering for all."

Ms Lamont also used her speech to pay an emotional tribute to husband Archie Graham.

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